Less Talk and More Dialogue - How to Be More Effective as a Coach in Sales

Posted on 09/10/2015 in Sales Coaching

A popular option in our coaching workshop includes the opportunity to video sales managers conducting a coaching session with one of his/her salespeople.  After viewing themselves the managers almost always feel that the coaching sessions would have been more effective if there had been more dialogue.  For example, a typical comment from managers is "I wish that I had talked less to the salesperson and made it more of a conversation.”

It is very common for managers to spend too much time talking and not enough time at questioning and listening.  Here are some suggestions to help you coach more effectively.

GETTING STARTED: Keep it Positive and Open-Ended
Many managers like to begin with an open-ended question such as, "How do you feel the sales call went?”   This question is good but can unintentionally get the conversation off on a negative because many salespeople will initially answer with something that they felt was done poorly on the sales call.

To minimize the tendency of a salesperson to be too critical or negative of himself/herself, a better way to phrase this initial question is to say instead something like:  "I thought you did many things well during the sales call, which I’ll share with you, but I’d like to begin by hearing from you.  What do you think went well during the sales call?”

Then, ask some follow-up questions to the answers that they salesperson provides.  For example, if the salesperson gives a general answer such as "I thought that I did well at getting the customer to tell us a lot about their needs,” you can ask additional questions such as "Tell me about what you did to make this happen well” or "Can you give some examples?”

By focusing initially on the positive aspects of the sales call, it allows you to then coach the salesperson to develop and use these strengths on subsequent sales calls.

AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Two Ways to Make This Constructive
After you finish the positive portion of the coaching conversation, you can then transition to any areas for improvement that you observed during the joint sales call.  There are two ways to go about this.

First, begin with an open-ended question such as, "What do you think could have been done better during the sales call?” Depending on the salesperson’s answers, you then coach accordingly.  Your responses can range from "I agree and here are some suggestions on how to do that differently”  to "I think that you’re being too harsh on yourself and felt that you actually did that better than you think.”

Second, after you’ve completed the open-ended questioning, you can then transition to something specific that you observed during the sales call.    Say something like, "In addition to what you just said, I noticed one or two things that could have been done differently.  (You then cite those items)  How did you feel about it?”

To ensure that the salesperson knows that you are there to help him/her rather than to be critical, also emphasize and say something like, "You do so many things well. If we can just fine tune and help you on this (specific skill/topic), it would make you even more effective.  What can I do to help you to improve in this area?”   Then, the two of you can mutually agree on a development plan.

Additional resources for Sales Coaching: Coaching for Sales Success workshop, Sales Meeting Kits, and additional Coaching Blogs. If you happened to miss our free Coaching for Sales Success webinar, you’ll be happy to know that we recorded the event – it’s only 25 minutes long.  Let us know if you’d like to receive the free coaching planning form and white paper that was sent to all participants. 

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